Miami diners consider certain money-driven variables pluses in deciding where to go on a night out: the flashy swordsmanship show of a Brazilian rodizio restaurant; the lavish steaks of an Argentine parrillada; the cutting-edge East-West fusion creations of a contemporary Peruvian eatery. Not a plus on any occasion would be, say, a place with bars on the windows and doors — a setting that, for the most part, only homesick natives would be motivated to brave.
The Honduran restaurant Adelita's Café has such a setting. The barred storefront looks pretty scary even to an ex-New Yorker — kind of like a Lower East Side drug drop. At best it's a locale one would pass without noticing. Adelita's is especially unnoticeable owing to a misleading address on Biscayne Boulevard, occupied by a pizza chain. The café is actually in the same building but around the corner, on 27th Street.
Inside, though, the brightly painted blue and yellow café is more expansive than one would imagine — two big rooms. And if you're careful to not pay too much attention to the ceiling (whose acoustic tiles are collapsing in numerous places), it's also far more festive. That's partially because of the Latin music on the jukebox and the cheery ceramic figurines on the walls (also available for sale in a display counter, along with an odd assortment of other Honduran items ranging from imported sweetbreads to soccer balls). Mostly, though, the lively ambience is owed to the many happy diners, chowing down on huge plates of homey fare that's not fancy but very tasty — and dirt-cheap.
2699 Biscayne Blvd, Miami; 305-576-1262. Open Sunday through Thursday 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday 7:00 a.m. to midnight or 1:00 a.m. (depending on the crowd).
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It's more difficult to pinpoint individual national cuisines in Latin America than in Europe, since so many Latin specialties cross borders. At Adelita's these would include vaguely Mexican tacos — soft corn tortillas wrapped around highly spiced minced chicken — and pupusas (masa harina cakes stuffed with pork chicharrón), which are much like the pupusas that neighboring El Salvador claims as its national signature fast food, but thinner and, unfortunately, a lot tougher in the dough department.
An Adelita's must-have that's indisputably Honduran, however, is the baleada: a homemade flour tortilla (thick but griddled to gloriously greasy, burn-blistered tenderness) doubled over a filling of intensely seasoned refried red beans, mascarponelike cream, and a sprinkling of crumbled queso duro (ultrasalty hard cheese — an acquired taste, usually acquired only by Hondurans). Admittedly it sounds heavy. But because Adelita's serves its baleadas, and most other dishes, with typical Honduran accompaniments — a huge helping of cabbage salad, chimol (a refreshing lightly vinegared tomato/green pepper/carrot salsa), and, upon request, a fresh onion/jalapeño relish that's eye-poppingly hot — the item is actually relatively healthy. Vegetarian too.
Combining a baleada with a taco or pupusa on a six-buck combo platter turns this supreme street-food snack into a belly-busting sit-down dinner. But serious meat lovers might prefer, at the same per-person price, the parrillada Ceibena for two. The platter — piled with grilled beef slices, rich on-the-bone pork chunks, a chicken cutlet, chicken wings, spiced beef balls, two cheeses (creamy and hard), carrot-studded rice, refried beans, corn tortillas, cabbage salad, and chimol — is like a Colombian bandeja paísa on steroids.
A different international influence, such as a Cuban-style topping of tangy mojo-marinated onions, would have benefited the bland boiled cassava in yuca con chicharrón. The dish's humongous deep-fried pork rind chunks, though, were absolutely heavenly heart attack fodder. And seafood fans can indulge in a healthier manner, with sopa de Ceibena. Named for a famed Honduran seaport city, the bowl of coconut milk-enriched soup came packed to the gills with conch, fish, shrimp, and shell-on crab. It's messy eating but marvelous — a reminder that sometimes the simplest fare, like Honduran food in general, is the most satisfying.